The Logic of a Vulture

/ by Srđan Srdić

First a certain Lovrić killed his wife in front of the premises of the Center for Social Work in New Belgrade. Like a man possessed, he’d been hitting his wife in the head with a stone until she breathed her last, then he committed suicide by jumping under a train. Lovrić had been convicted of threats and family violence, reported countless times, put in prison, where he behaved well and was unexpectedly released, and so on. We know all this by heart.

Then, a week later, a certain citizen Nikolić massacred his ex-wife with a knife, in broad daylight, in front of the Center for Social Work in the Belgrade municipality of Rakovica. The said Nikolić decided not to lie low on that day in July so, after he killed his wife, he went on brandishing his knife all around, injuring three social workers at the Center. Still, what prison psychiatrists should deal with most today is the fact that this man, dangerous for all and everyone, strangled his four-year-old son before the mentioned events, during one of the meetings the courts had granted him.

Unfortunately, nothing in these two stories has been seen for the first time. Violence, lunatic excesses, family abuse, problematic and senseless court decisions – these have been and will always be, Serbia is no exception. Serbia is, however, interesting because of certain sub-phenomena which took place when the bloodthirsty media, forever led by the popular press, got hold of these tragedies.

At this point in the story two heroes appear whose names certainly shouldn’t be forgotten. The first one is a Predrag Azdejković, a person of dubious vocation, who’s been in the public eye as an LGBT activist for years. Wicked fate has sent Azdejković, as a declared member of the LGBT population, to live in Serbia, one of the countries whose citizens and institutions are for the most part extremely unfriendly toward LGBT individuals. As a participant in a number of attempted pride parades, Predrag Azdejković has been in the position to face the violence of football fans, violence of the fundamentalist, chauvinistic, street and any other possible type. Thanks to the good Lord, there are video recordings of all these attempted parades, there’s too much blood, burning, beaten people, overturned cars and tear gas for Azdejković to forget. Even him. So, after these events this individual wrote the following sentence on Twitter: “You chose him yourself.”

At the same time, probably not to lag behind Azdejković, Zoran Milivojević, a general practitioner, present in the media as a psychotherapist and most often as a general expert, owner of the answers to all possible questions, especially those he knows absolutely nothing about, found himself in the spotlight. And Milivojević would have stayed sadly funny, had he not made the following claim about one of the killed women in his regular column in the more and more controversial daily Politika: if only the mother hadn’t prevented the father from seeing the child, this wouldn’t have happened. The fact that the killer regularly saw his child in accordance with the court decision, and that he eventually killed him during one of such meetings, wasn’t of much concern to Milivojević. Like Azdejković, Milivojević blamed the dead women for both tragedies, exactly those who had suffered psycho-physical torture of evidently mentally unstable people for years.

Let’s call to mind the good old Harry Callahan, who would often say: opinions are like assholes – everyone has one. It’s the same with the two mentioned heroes of our time and this is not a problem. The problem lies in the fact that in their own age they both feel uninhibited enough to make their most senseless opinion public, and not to suffer any consequences at all, except powerless comments by people whose anger they brought upon themselves, rightfully so. This is why Azdejković should perhaps have been faced with the fans’ leaders who’d been organizing violent protests against the Belgrade Pride Parade for years, and after this experience asked whether the choice of his own sexual orientation was his fault or not. Or Milivojević, doctor and general expert, should have been taken to the hospital where the workers of the Center for Social Work Rakovica lay, stabbed with a knife by the citizen Nikolić. I believe they would be full of understanding for his wise words written down in the legendary Politika.

The remaining, normal folk are forced to live with a load of crap showered on them by the likes of Milivojević and Azdejković of this world. What if anything is allowed, Dostoyevsky F. M. wondered? If anything is allowed, that is, if there’s no mechanism to sanction the public for idiotic statements (I won’t say anything about the editors of Politika who didn’t remove Milivojević from the collaborator list, I won’t say anything about the editor who approved of such a text), then we speak of terrorism against established civilization norms – anybody can utter whatever they want without being condemned in principle at least – we’re in for freedom suffocated for good. Freedom to be a decent, normal human being with inherent and functional empathy. And where there’s no freedom, there are vultures; their shit flies over our poor heads. And it never stops falling. 

Srđan Srdić

is a novelist, short-story writer, editor, essayist and creative reading/writing teacher. He has published two novels, two short story collections and a book of essays. From 2008 to 2011 he served as the editor of the international short story festival Kikinda Short. He returned to this position in September 2015.